Saying publicly in the Knesset what he had only said privately to congressional leaders in Washington last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed on Wednesday that Israel would act to defend itself even if the US objected.

“Israel has never left its fate in the hands of others, not even in the hands of our best friends,” he said in a speech that focused on the Iranian threat and drew a direct line from Tehran to the events earlier this week in Gaza. He also blamed the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip for leading to Iran’s establishment of a “forward” terrorist base there.

Netanyahu cited legendary US secretary of state George Marshall as telling David Ben-Gurion in 1948 not to declare a state, and reminded the Knesset that US president Lyndon Johnson not only advised Israel against preemptive military action in 1967, but warned that “if you act alone, you will be alone.”

Likewise, he said, former prime minister Menachem Begin knew when he decided to attack the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 that he was going against US wishes and would come under sharp international criticism.

“But he fulfilled his obligation and acted,” said Netanyahu, possibly preparing the public for the prospect of Israeli military action even over US objections.

The prime minister said that a nuclear Iran would pose an “existential threat” to Israel, and that while he would prefer it if Iran voluntarily abandoned its nuclear ambitions, he had an “obligation” to retain Israel’s “independent ability” to defend itself.

After five days of fighting in the South that replaced Iran as the major issue on the country’s agenda for a short while, Netanyahu’s speech put the attention back on the Iranian dilemma.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

He scoffed at those who argued that an accord with the Palestinians would solve the Iranian problem.

“As if an agreement with Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] would stop the [Iranian] centrifuges,” he said. “Anyone who wants to believe that may do so, but he is burying his head in the sand.”

What Netanyahu did not say was that US President Barack Obama linked the Palestinian issue to Iran in the early days of his presidency, something that created tension between Washington and Jerusalem. Now, however, the administration has divorced the two issues.

“The dominant element driving the events in Gaza is not the Palestinian issue,” he said. “The dominant element driving the events in Gaza is Iran. Gaza is Iran.”

The prime minister said that Gaza’s missiles, money, terrorist training and terrorist infrastructure all came from Iran.

“Who is giving the orders?” he asked.

“Iran. Gaza is Iran’s forward position.”

Netanyahu said that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah in Lebanon all worked under Iran’s umbrella.

“Now imagine if that umbrella turns nuclear? Imagine that behind the terrorist organizations is a state calling for our destruction that is armed with a nuclear bomb.”

He declared that he was not willing to live with that scenario, and that “every responsible leader understands that it is forbidden to let that happen.”

The prime minister, referring to opposition leader Tzipi Livni’s comments that he was sowing panic, said those same words had been hurled at him in 2005 when he predicted that as a result of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, missiles would be fired from there at Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod.

“They said then we were sowing panic,” he said. “They said the unilateral withdrawal would bring a breakthrough on the road to peace. Nu, what breakthrough? What road? What peace?” Every time Israel left territory, he continued, Iran moved in.

“We left Lebanon, Iran came in. We left Gaza, Iran came in. There are those suggesting we do the same thing in Judea and Samaria,” he declared. “Iran would go in there as well. I don’t believe there is anyone who doesn’t understand that it is forbidden to repeat the same mistake a third time.”

Israel’s enemies, he stated, needed to understand that in the final analysis, Israel would not suffer an Iranian base in Gaza.

“Sooner or later,” he said, “the Iranian terrorist base in Gaza will be uprooted.”

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